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Trump aide sought social media manipulation from Israeli intelligence firm

12 October 2018

Robert Mueller is looking into the Trump campaign's discussions with an Israeli intelligence firm to go after opponents in the 2016 election campaign, reports the New York Times.

Former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates reportedly consulted with Israeli intelligence firm Psy-Group in 2016 to create fake identities online in order to manipulate voters and defeat Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Similar to the disinformation campaigns that Russian operatives were launching around the same time, Psy-Group also suggested that the campaign use social media to highlight polarization in the U.S.

Gates wanted to use fake social media personas to ensure Trump was the favorite of delegates at the Republican National Convention.

Another goal was to convert Cruz supporters into Trump supporters because Trump's team feared the Texas senator would lead a revolt over the Republican presidential nomination.

Gates and Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, were indicted by the special counsel previous year on charges of fraud and tax evasion. Other targets of the campaign included Trump's Democrat party rival Hillary Clinton, with "another proposal describe [ing] opposition research and "complementary intelligence activities" about Mrs. Clinton and people close to her", the New York Times added. Gates had joined the Trump campaign days earlier with Paul Manafort, his longtime business partner, to try to prevent a revolt of Republican delegates from Trump toward Cruz.

That meeting, revealed in May by The Times, was also attended by George Nader, an emissary from the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and by Erik Prince, a Republican donor and the founder of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.

Former Psy-Group employees said that, in anticipation of the Trump Tower meeting, Zamel asked them to prepare an updated version of the third proposal.

Mr. Zamel's attorney told The Times the meeting at Trump Tower was just to outline the company's capabilities in "general terms". A lawyer for Zamel said that Zamel had not personally discussed specific proposals with Donald Trump Jr. or anyone else from the Trump campaign.

That same month, Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three companies in connection with a wide-ranging, multimillion-dollar enterprise to interfere with and "sow discord" in the American political system using social media.

Trump aide sought social media manipulation from Israeli intelligence firm